Five big ideas of 2011

From Next’s ticketing system to vertical farming, it was a banner year for Chicago innovators.
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1. Next restaurant’s online ticketing system The West Loop restaurant mimics an airline by selling seats in advance, with cheaper prices at nonpeak times.

2. The Plant A South Side building features a vertical eco-farm: An anaerobic digester turns plant waste into biogas, which runs a turbine that produces heat and electricity.

3. en route Redefining theater, Australian troupe One Step at a Time Like This uses texts, phone calls and prerecorded poetry to guide solo walking tours of Chicago.

4. Mansueto Library The University of Chicago building (partly funded by TOC owner Joe Mansueto) creates an underground Batcave with space for 3.5 million books.

5. Chicago Ideas Week Groupon cofounder Brad Keywell creates a conference to inspire local entrepreneurs. (October 10–16).

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